Music journalism is finding a new place in Canada

October 16, 2017

I might be a little biased, but music journalism is a mostly worthwhile pursuit. The way culture and art is covered in your town, city, and country matters—after all, what is it that the big moments of our lives are filled and defined by? Music, film, visual art, and more. Art in general is the way we, as human beings, make sense of the world around us. And while art isn’t the kind of thing that will ever go away (knock on wood) the amplification of it via traditional outlets like newspapers and magazines, on a topical schedule, is in a bit of danger—the same danger that journalism in general is in. But, as the Globe’s Josh O’Kane points out, those conversations are finding new places to exist in.

O’Kane makes a bit of a startling, but nonetheless accurate observation, to be honest: Canadian music journalism is making a big push toward the printed page, with numerous publishers and books making waves in musical spaces. With the decline of arts coverage in newspapers and the loss of alt-weeklies across the country (not to mention across the globe), journalists have been seeking out alternative modes of communication. And while less regular coverage is certainly a drag, it’s worth appreciating this trend as an important historical initiative—with hindsight and research, writers can define more clearly what scenes and bands meant in the context of the Canadian music landscape.

Thankfully, the subjects have so far been fairly obscure compared to what people might expect—as in, not necessarily just Tragically Hip writing (though that—of course—exists and there is more on the way). Recent books about Canadian music include Sheldon Birnie’s writing on Winnipeg’s underground punk, hardcore, and noise scene Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock, Jason Murray’s Eric’s Trip remembrance A Distorted Revolution, and Andrea Warner’s We Oughta Know, which discusses the importance of Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Sarah McLachlan, and Alanis Morissette. It’s an exciting trend, though, as O’Kane points out, it needs to broaden its scope—writers, bands, and movements that involve more women, more POC, and more LGBTQ-identifying folks could use a lot more representation. Here’s hoping it continues.

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About the Author

Matt Williams

Matt Williams is a writer and photographer. Born and raised on the Prairies in Winnipeg, he’s slowly made his way farther and farther east, spending a few years covering music in Toronto before running clear out of country and ending up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In between, he’s made numerous detours, interviewing and photographing countless artists across North America and beyond. He heads up Amplify’s Instrumental series, where he talks with musicians about the relationships they’ve formed with their most important tools.

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